UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FILED FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
United States Court of Appeals
FEB 18 2005
RAJANI K. KANTH, as
PATRICK FISHER guardian of minor children
Clerk Malini Kanth and Anjana
BRUCE LUBECK, Judge;
SANDRA PEULER, Judge;
KAWAMURA, Guardian Ad
Litem; MARTIN OLSEN,
Guardian Ad Litem;
Director, Utah Office of
Guardian Ad Litem;
Chief Justice, Utah Supreme
Court; NORMAN H.
JACKSON, Presiding Judge,
Utah Court of Appeals;
JUDITH M. BILLINGS,
Judge, Utah Court of
Appeals; JAMES DAVIS,
Judge, Utah Court of
General, State of Utah;
Director, Utah Department of
Human Services; MICHAEL
BURTON, Judge; CORY
KANTH; JUDY MEYER;
Presiding Judge, Third
District Court, Salt Lake
ORDER AND JUDGMENT*
Before TACHA, Chief Judge, HENRY, and O’BRIEN, Circuit Judges.
After examining the briefs and appellate record, this panel has determined
unanimously that oral argument would not materially assist the determination of this
appeal. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a)(2); 10th Cir. R. 34.1(G). The case is therefore
ordered submitted without oral argument.
Plaintiff Rajani K. Kanth, appearing pro se, appeals the district court’s order
dismissing his complaint alleging that his civil rights were violated during the course of
his Utah state divorce proceedings.1 Mr. Kanth’s complaint requested the federal court
This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the doctrines of
law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. The court generally disfavors the
citation of orders and judgments; nevertheless, an order and judgment may be cited under
the terms and conditions of 10th Cir. R. 36.3.
Mr. Kanth also purported to bring the complaint on behalf of his two minor
children, but the district court correctly ruled that as a non-lawyer parent, appearing pro
se, he may not represent his minor children in federal court. Meeker v. Kercher, 782
F.2d 153, 154 (10th Cir. 1986) (per curiam).
to assume jurisdiction over the state divorce proceedings, to dismiss the Utah divorce
decree, and restore to him full custodial and visitation rights to his two minor children.
In his initial complaint, as amended once pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), Mr. Kanth
named as defendants numerous Utah state trial judges, commissioners, and appellate
court judges, as well as three attorneys in the Utah Office of Guardian Ad Litem, the
Attorney General of the State of Utah, and the Director of the Utah Department of
Human Services.2 He attempted to file five additional amended complaints additionally
naming his ex-wife, her parents, and her attorney as defendants. The district court
denied these proposed amendments as both improperly filed and futile, and we find no
abuse of the court’s discretion in this regard. Jefferson County Sch. Dist. No. R-1 v.
Moody’s Investor's Servs., Inc., 175 F.3d 848, 859 (10th Cir. 1999) (“district court may
deny leave to amend where amendment would be futile.”).
The district court dismissed Mr. Kanth’s complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, concluding that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars him from challenging the orders and judgments entered in
the state-court proceedings. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a jurisdictional prohibition
based on 28 U.S.C. § 1257 which holds that, with the exception of habeas corpus, federal
review of state court judgments can be obtained only in the United States Supreme Court.
See Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); Dist. of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). As additional grounds for dismissing the complaint, the
district court also noted that (1) it lacked jurisdiction over the claims under the Younger
doctrine, which bars federal court from interfering with ongoing state court proceedings,
see Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); (2) all of the Utah state defendants in their
official capacities were immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the United
He also named, but never served, Susan Callister, the principal of Cottonwood
Heights Elementary School.
States Constitution, which bars suits by private citizens against the states in federal court
absent waiver; and (3) all of the judicial defendants were absolutely immune from suit
because all of Mr. Kanth’s allegations against them arose out of actions they took or
failed to take in their judicial capacities.
Mr. Kanth contends the district court erred in denying his motion for appointment
of counsel; refusing to offer him guidance because of his pro se status; denying his
motion for preliminary injunction requesting the federal court to assume immediate
jurisdiction of the Utah divorce proceedings; failing to replace the magistrate judge for
failure to timely rule on his stay motion; failing to allow his complaint to proceed against
the defendants in their personal, rather than official, capacities; failing to hold a hearing;
dismissing his complaint and refusing to assume jurisdiction over his complaint. We
review de novo the district court’s decision to dismiss the case under Rules 12(b)(1) and
(6). Colo. Envtl. Coalition v. Wenker, 353 F.3d 1221, 1227 (10th Cir. 2004). Contrary
to Mr. Kanth’s arguments and claim of error, neither this court nor the district court may
assume the role of advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106,
1110 (10th Cir. 1991).
“[T]he Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits a lower federal court from considering
claims actually decided by a state court, and claims inextricably intertwined with a prior
state-court judgment.” Kenmen Eng'g v. City of Union, 314 F.3d 468, 473 (10th Cir.
2002) (citations and quotations omitted). It “precludes a party losing in state court . . .
from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of [a] state judgment in a
United States district court. . . .” Id. (alteration in original) (quotation omitted). Mr.
Kanth contends that he is not seeking appellate review of the state court rulings, but
restitution of his civil rights. To determine if Rooker-Feldman applies, we look to the
relief Mr. Kanth seeks, and determine if “the state court judgment caused, actually and
proximately, the injury for which the federal court plaintiff seeks redress.” Id. at 476
(footnote omitted). “If it did, Rooker-Feldman deprives the federal court of
jurisdiction.” Id. Despite his attempt to characterize his federal complaint as one
seeking to vindicate his federal constitutional rights, the relief Mr. Kanth seeks is a
reversal of the Utah state courts’ rulings against him and an award of custodial and
visitation rights to his children. Any federal claims are inextricably intertwined with
those orders. See id. at 476-77.
Mr. Kanth further argues the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is inapplicable because, he
contends, the Utah courts lacked any jurisdiction over the divorce and custody
proceedings since the Utah divorce decree was entered before the United States Supreme
Court ruled on his International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA) petition
alleging that his children were wrongfully removed from Australia to the United States.
This argument is factually and legally without merit. This court affirmed the district
court’s denial of his ICARA petition in 2000, well before the Utah court entered the
divorce decree in 2001. See Kanth v. Kanth, No. 99-4246, 2000 WL 1644099 (10th Cir.
Nov. 2, 2000), affirming Kanth v. Kanth, 79 F. Supp. 2d 1317, 1318-20 (D. Utah 1999).
Mr. Kanth did not seek a stay of this court’s judgment, and the Supreme Court denied
review on June 25, 2001, Kanth v. Kanth, 533 U.S. 929 (2001), prior to the August 1,
2001 date that the Utah divorce decree was entered. See Kanth v. Kanth, No.
20010718-CA, 2002 WL 31770985, at *1 (Utah App. Dec. 12, 2002) (rejecting same
argument, and noting that formal divorce decree not entered until August 1, 2001); see
also Aplee. Supp. App., at 25.
In short, we agree with the district court, for substantially the same reasons stated
in its order filed February 26, 2004, that Mr. Kanth’s complaint was properly dismissed
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Because the
district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Mr. Kanth’s complaint, we do not
consider the district court’s alternative and additional reasons for dismissal. See United
States ex rel. Grynberg v. Praxair, Inc., 389 F.3d 1038, 1042 (10th Cir. 2004).
The order of the district court is AFFIRMED. The mandate shall issue forthwith.
Entered for the Court
Terrence L. O’Brien